Question: I’ve probably procrastinated too long. But in case
it’s not too late, are there still great turkeys to be had in Los Angeles, or
am I destined to take a trip on the Good Ship Butterball once again, a prisoner
in my own kitchen?

—Maria R., Los Angeles

Answer: If you are looking for the Heritage-brokered
Standard Bronzes from the Good Shepherd Ranch in Kansas, the ones that the local
Slow Food chapter is distributing, you are too late. Last call was last Sunday.
And I know that in the past, I have suggested the excellent Shelton turkeys,
locally grown free-range birds with a developed flavor, and the delicious Willie
Birds from Sonoma, both of which are available locally at places like Puritan
Poultry in the Farmers Market, Howie’s, Whole Foods and Wild Oats. You really
can’t go wrong with a Shelton bird.

But for the last couple of years, I’ve gone with Bourbon Reds from Mary’s
Turkeys in the Central Valley, also affiliated with the Heritage Turkey program
to foster old breeds of fowl, and they have probably been the best turkeys I
have ever eaten, with a deep, rich, almost nutty taste that is to a regular
bird what a Holbein is to the latest Jeff Koons, crackling skin closer to suckling
pig than to anything I’ve ever tasted on a turkey, and a firm, almost steak-like
texture. The carcasses even seem to make superior stock. And you can probably
pick one up at your local Bristol Farms even today. (Call and reserve one this
second.) They’re kind of expensive – this year’s turkey was about six bucks
a pound – but after you factor in a week of turkey soup, turkey hash, turkey
risotto and hot-turkey sandwiches, that extra flavor seems well worth the price.

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